In May 2011, discussions began secretly in Mexico between a known Los Zetas associate and Quds Force operative Manssor Arbabsiar. The discussion would lead to planning a C-4 detonation at a Washington, D.C. restaurant frequented by Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir. The Quds Force operative did not know that he was being recorded in a DEA operation.
Over the course of a few months, several clandestine meetings in Mexico planned strikes against the Israeli Embassy in Washington, plus and the Saudi and Israeli Embassies in Argentina. New opium trafficking lanes between the Middle East and Mexico were also charted.
In July 2011, Arbabsiar returned to Mexico to continue meeting with the DEA informant. He explained that his bosses in Iran had plans for more violence, in addition to the Saudi ambassador’s murder. On July 14, the informant told the DEA that Arbabsiar recruited four men to carry out the plot and would charge a total of $1.5 million USD. Advance payments of nearly $50,000 were wired to an FBI-controlled bank account in an overt act of validating the conspiracy.
In October 2011, operative Arbabsiar and an Iran-based member of the Quds Force, Gholam Shakuri, were arrested by federal agents, according to New York Times reporting at the time. The two men were charged with conspiracy to murder a foreign official, use weapons of mass destruction, and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism, among others. Arbabsiar later confessed to the charges and reportedly cooperated with authorities.
While the foiled plot was deemed a success for the DEA, FBI, and Mexico City, others noted the United States’ luck that the person recruited by the Soleimani Quds Force agent happened to be a federal informant. The operation also solidified the fact that state sponsors of terror had a propensity to work with non-state actors in Mexico as violent proxies.
The effort to open a new smuggling lane between the Middle East and Mexico generated further concern. Today, cartels have demonstrably expanded to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Russia.
In late 2011, the investigation was part of the reason U.S. Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX) led the first attempt to designate Mexican cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations–which ultimately failed. The event underscores the potential value a terrorist organization may enjoy in collaborating with a willing cartel.
Jaeson Jones is a retired Captain from the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division and a Breitbart Texas contributor. While on duty, he managed daily operations for the Texas Rangers Border Security Operations Center.